Christopher Parnagian and Robert O’Hare did not leave big firms because they had to. They left because they thought they could make a start-up firm a success. Six months later they have no regrets and much advice for associates who are willing to keep up the hard work but want to do so on their own terms.

In the spring of 1996, Mr. O’Hare drove to New York from Delaware to meet Mr. Parnagian, a friend from St. John’s University School of Law, and his wife for brunch. Mr. Parnagian, a corporate associate at Thelen Reid & Priest LLP and, according to him, the “catalyst,” albeit the “conservative,” of the start-up, asked Mr. O’Hare if he would consider a partnership.